Nicola Shaw has spent many years working in the NHS. Her experience with the organisation – where she has worked for over 16 years with both patients and behind the scenes – has led her to develop and successfully launch SecureABag. This innovative product – which secures patients’ property while they’re in hospital – is designed to both help the patient experience and save the healthcare industry money.

Shaw says her insights into how the NHS works have been the most help to her during the development phase. ‘My knowhow and knowledge is my greatest skill,’ she says. ‘I know and understand how the patient journey works around the hospital, what is needed and what will work. I’ve been able to research first hand with every department that has seen theft, loss and damage of patient’s belongings. During that research and networking time I’ve made a number of contacts who have the knowhow, knowledge and connections to help take SecureABag to the next level.’

Research has been the bedrock of SecureABag, with Shaw looking in to figures and breakdowns of lost items from NHS England, NHS Wales and Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and gaining feedback and support from the patient advice and liaison services of various hospitals, bereavement officers, front line staff in A&E departments, cardiologists and general practitioners. She has also networked extensively as she has developed SecureABag, including Liverpool Library Business Clinics and Business and IP Centre, making the most of the LCR4.0 project, OpenMaker, Sensor City, LCR Health Innovation Exchange, Care Innovation, MTC Manufacturing Technology Centre, eHealth Cluster and The Women’s Organisation, alongside health sector-specific organisations like Age Concern and Mental Health, Patient and Dementia Organisation representatives.

‘I have first-hand experience of seeing the financial and emotional implications of patient valuables loses and thefts,’ says Shaw. ‘OpenMaker filled a major gap in the market that was standing in the way of sole inventors and small companies bringing great products to market. It’s the bridge that was needed in order to bring makers and manufacturers together. The hardest part of inventing a product is by far trying to find the right contacts in order to take it to the next level.’

Shaw’s interest is specifically with manufacturing and industrial sectors with NHS connections, and says: ‘these are the people with products within the industry that I’m trying to break into. My aim is to secure a licensing deal with one of these manufacturers. I hope to be introduced to someone with the knowledge who can take over SecureABag.

‘SecureABag is my first invention. It’s the result of my knowledge and knowhow of the patient journey throughout the NHS. I’ve also been granted a patent for it, so have come to understand the best practices and pitfalls to avoid. Everyone I’ve met along the way has been a positive experience. It’s a learning curve, with me taking small steps to where I am now. But, while they’ve all been invaluable and interesting, I’ve been missing that vital next step link. Now that I’ve begun working with the accelerator programmes LCR4.0 and OpenMaker, I hope that these will take SecureABag to market.

My ultimate desire is to secure a licensing agreement with a manufacturer at this stage. But if that’s not possible, than I’d like to make a prototype and a batch for testing before securing a licensing agreement. Meeting the right people to help me do this is the challenge for me. I really want to keep on inventing – once I’ve secured my goal with SecureABag I’d like to pursue another couple of ideas that I have. I want to look for a job in innovation/development, as I am truly interested in this area and know I have a lot to offer. Making this journey and securing a patent using my own time and money has given me a good insight into the whole inventing experience.’

OpenMaker has provided a supportive network and skilled environment in which to develop, says Shaw. ‘The programme has already given me a boost. It’s shown me that I’m on the right track and of the right mind set,’ she says. ‘I really enjoyed the event in Sensor City, and being surrounded by like-minded people. Openness and collaboration is what I’ve been missing and have been looking for. When you’re a lone inventor, it’s extremely difficult to find the right trustworthy collaboration. It’s one of the most important issues and why I had reached a bit of a brick wall. Time is also a constraint, as I’ve always worked full time whilst trying to bring SecureABag to market.

‘The relationship between LCR4.0 and OpenMaker is an excellent, positive, forward-moving one. I wouldn’t have known about OpenMaker without LCR4.0 – collaboration is exactly what inventors require in order to be successful. It’s an exciting opportunity.’